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May 7, 2012 7:46 PM   Subscribe

How much should I charge someone who wants me to do a special errand while travelling abroad?

This guy runs a small but international business, with clients all over the world, buying and selling machinery. I'll be travelling to a country he does business in soon, and the dates I'll be there coincide with dates when a trade show will take place. He wants to send somebody to the show to pick up catalogs / materials and ship them back. I mentioned to him that if we can work out the details, maybe I can go to the show for him.

How much should I charge him for this? Factors to consider:
1. The show is taking place in a city with which I am not terribly familiar, so I'll need to do some research beforehand to know where to go, what to do, etc;
2. I'm taking precious time out of my own personal trip, and going out of my way (going to a city not originally in my itinerary) to do this;
3. He's saving money by not having to buy any plane tickets, since I'm already heading in that direction and offered to go for him.

I already told him that he'd need to pay for lodging, meals and transportation to get this city into my already-planned itinerary, but I'm wondering how much I should charge for the actual work. As there won't be any set hours for this, I'm thinking I should charge him some sort of daily rate.

Has anyone ever done any sort of international special, one-time errand like this before? Any idea what to ask for payment?

(In case it matters, the country is China and the city is Shanghai.)
posted by ditto75 to Work & Money (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Is this a guy who could do you any professional favors in the future? If yes, having him "owe you one" is many orders of magnitude more valuable than charging him for this work. If you charge him and make a profit (above the cost to you) the transaction is over, but if you don't charge him to attend the show and pick up the stuff, he owes you a favor.

Obviously this is dependent on your respective fields, but these things always have a way of coming back.. imho.

To answer the question that you asked, since you agreed to do it (or if you agree. which I never would) I wouldn't go overboard charging him for the inconvenience. Maybe a modest rate of $50/hr for the time you spend at the show.
posted by sarahnicolesays at 7:57 PM on May 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think it depends on whether he would definitely have sent someone to the show otherwise. If so, he is saving money on an otherwise unavoidable expense that he had presumably budgeted for. In that case, it makes sense for you guys to split the savings pretty evenly: you doing him this favour saves you the same amount of money on your holiday expenses as it saves him on his business expenses.

If he would otherwise probably NOT have sent someone, then you represent a cost to him, rather than a savings, in which case sarahnicolesays's advice is more appropriate: a reasonable hourly rate or low day-rate plus your expenses.
posted by lollusc at 8:02 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is this guy your friend?

Would it be reasonable to extend your trip by the amount of time this side trip will take? If you don't have the vacation time, perhaps the daily rate for you to take unpaid leave.

If you'll feel resentful, this may not be the right thing for you to do on your personal trip. Or, at the least, charge some amount that'll relieve your resentment.

If you don't already work for him, you may have to get a 1099 or something to report the income, as he'll be paying you as a business expense.
posted by bookdragoness at 8:03 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


$1000/day
posted by rhizome at 8:08 PM on May 7, 2012


I can't think of any "favors" he could do for me, as he doesn't have much to offer (besides possible part-time work). I'm mainly doing it because it'll give me a chance to visit another city on someone else's dime, and also to let me see what his industry's about somewhat. (Side note: I don't have an industry, or career path yet, so I'm willing to look into anything right now.)

He did tell me that he DOES need to send somebody there, so I do think he's saving some $$$ by not having to buy an international round-trip plane ticket.

Would prefer not to extend trip as my plane tickets are already bought and therefore itinerary already planned.

Good call on the 1099. Didn't think of that.
posted by ditto75 at 8:08 PM on May 7, 2012


$1000/day

I WISH!!!
posted by ditto75 at 8:09 PM on May 7, 2012


He did tell me that he DOES need to send somebody there

Then I think you should split the savings, as I said above.

E.g. (using imaginary numbers):

Cost to him if he sends someone:
plane ticket $1000
hotels for two nights: $300
food and other expenses for three days: $300
TOTAL: $1600

Cost to him if he uses you:
Your hotel (maybe for just one extra night?): $150
food and other expenses for one day: $100
travel to the convention city: $100
TOTAL $350

So by using you he saves about $1250 in expenses (on these fabricated amounts). He should get to keep $625 of those savings, and you should get $625 of them to apply to the rest of your holiday. And then you've each saved the same amount on your expenses (his business expenses; your leisure expenses). So he should pay you a daily rate of $600.

Obviously you should plug your own figures into the calculation, and it might not be fair to assume he would send an employee for three days to a one day trade fair (I just thought he would probably arrive the night before and leave the following day).
posted by lollusc at 8:18 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Keep in mind that visiting China for business requires a different visa from visiting as a tourist, for US passport holders. (This is true for many countries, but I would be especially careful with China on this point - they are pretty sticky about border control.)
posted by gingerest at 8:23 PM on May 7, 2012


So by using you he saves about $1250 in expenses (on these fabricated amounts). He should get to keep $625 of those savings, and you should get $625 of them to apply to the rest of your holiday. And then you've each saved the same amount on your expenses (his business expenses; your leisure expenses). So he should pay you a daily rate of $600.

lollusc, I see how you got the $625 for each party, but I don't see how you got the $600 daily rate.

Basically, he'd be saving mostly on the plane ticket, and I suppose also on paying somebody for those days (unless I ask him for to pay me).

gingerest, my understanding is that I'd only be visiting the trade show, not actually doing any sort of "official" business, so I assume my tourist visa will be ok. Am I wrong?
posted by ditto75 at 8:27 PM on May 7, 2012


I was just rounding down from $625, because I think you should give him a round figure (and explain how you justified it in general terms).
posted by lollusc at 8:41 PM on May 7, 2012


I'm mainly doing it because it'll give me a chance to visit another city on someone else's dime, and also to let me see what his industry's about somewhat.

So this guy agrees to pay for lodging, meals and transportation to a city that you want to visit, and you're also trying to figure out an hourly rate? He's not asking you to go to a suburb of Ulan Bator, he's asking you -- actually, from the way you put it, it sounds like you offered to go to Shanghai, which is a pretty awesome city. Millons of people go there every year. They're building a Disneyland there.

I'm sure you're a terrific person, but if I were this guy, I'd tell you to pound sand if you asked me to compensate you for your "precious time."
posted by Etrigan at 8:43 PM on May 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


Etrigan, the guy is only paying for lodging, meals and transportation in the place he would not otherwise go to. The rest of the trip the OP is paying out of pocket. Why shouldn't he ask for compensation for his time? If a company employee is sent somewhere for company business, all the travel expenses are covered and the employee gets compensated for his/her time (be it salary or otherwise).
posted by imagineerit at 8:51 PM on May 7, 2012


So this guy agrees to pay for lodging, meals and transportation to a city that you want to visit, and you're also trying to figure out an hourly rate?

It's not that I want or need to go to Shanghai, it's just that I wouldn't mind going there for him to help him out a bit. Yes, there's the added bonus of visiting an awesome (well, not to me, but most people think it is) city...but my itinerary originally did not include a Shanghai stop.

Since he'd be saving some dough not having to buy a plane ticket, shouldn't I ask for that money? He'd have to spend it otherwise.
posted by ditto75 at 8:51 PM on May 7, 2012


I haven't travelled in China, and it's not clear to me what kind of visa you need to go to a trade show if you're not presenting or invited. It's just something to find out about beforehand, because it is expensive and no fun to get to a different country and be turned away because you've got the wrong visa. I would check with the Embassy. (It looks to me like all the ordinary visas cost $140, so it's not a big deal if you need one versus the other.)
posted by gingerest at 9:05 PM on May 7, 2012


If you try to attend a trade show on a student/tourist visa you'll most likely get away with it. However, if you are caught then you will possibly be fined/deported (maybe you can bluff your way out; I'm not familiar with what information the show will ask of you or how you might end having your papers asked of you at a trade show.) You can't just switch out visas while you are in the country, either. So, what's it worth to you to risk having your trip cut short?

Also, since you can't guarantee you'll complete the job due to the above (plus you're probably not an expert who knows exactly what to look for at the show), you're an alternative to his hiring someone already in Shanghai to do the job, and that's a fair amount cheaper than flying someone in from the states. So, I think you're reduced to just the expenses if you want to save this guy money despite the risk to yourself.
posted by michaelh at 9:31 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have lived in China for several years. It is absolutely fine to go to a trade show on a tourist visa. No one is going to ask to see your passport/visa.
posted by bearette at 11:16 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I were the guy, I would offer to cover your entry to the show, your transport from wherever you were before to Shanghai and back, your accommodation the night before and/or after depending on how far it is out of your way, and your meals that day, but that's pretty much it. If the prospect didn't at least interest you, I'd ask someone else.

If I were you, that would be what I would ask to do it. Basically so long as it didn't cause me to incur any additional expenses, or miss out on stuff I'd want to do, I'd be very interested to do it. A trade show is an interesting thing to see and an interesting place to meet people. If you're open to new ideas and new opportunities, you could gain a lot from it. You don't know until you go.

The decision really depends on your own novelty-seeking drive, openness to new experiences, adaptability, and commitment to your pre-existing schedule. If it all sounds like a boring pain and you want to be paid for it (as opposed to reimbursed/compensated), you're probably not the right person to do this thing. You might be able to help him find the right person to do it.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:48 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


keep in mind that if you charge something, then you'll be expected to deliver a high quality work product. if you are just asking for expenses, well he gets what you reasonably provide. When you're on vacation you might not want to worry about providing a good work product- full list of contacts, notes on quality of various vendors, whatever. that kind of report will likely take you time past the show to compile, maybe even during your vacation while it's still fresh.

at least that's what i'd expect if i paid for time as well as expenses. with just the expenses, i'd expect you to just go check it out, provide what you can, and enjoy yourself a little too.
posted by saraindc at 6:31 AM on May 8, 2012


Why don't you ask him directly what his budget would be if he had to send someone independently? (It seems like you're going to risk a lot by trying to work that out on your own.) Assure him that you want to make sure that this is a good economic decision for him, and ask him to detail exactly what work product he expects. Then figure out what it would cost him to cover your travel portion, compare that number to his other budget, and find something in the middle of those two numbers. It'll still be a great deal for him, you'll be fairly compensated, and he'll receive the work product he expects.

I really disagree with the folks that are saying that you should be paying to do this errand for him by only accepting reimbursement for travel/lodging/food. That's ridiculous. There is an opportunity cost to taking this errand on, and whatever time OP spends doing it is time not spent doing something else on vacation. Not compensating that time forces the OP to bear the full cost of that time. Covering travel/lodging/food mitigates it SOME but not entirely.

Etrigan/aeschenkarnos further miss the point because even if he finds someone else, he's going to pay significantly more to send them simply by virtue of the fact that they're not already there. Even if he sent an employee, that employee's time would be paid in addition to the coverage for travel. After all, when I take a couple days to go to a conference, I don't have to use vacation days to do that. I'm working. And it is compensated time. (Less obviously, certainly, for salaried folks. But still: compensated time.)
posted by jph at 7:00 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm mainly doing it because it'll give me a chance to visit another city on someone else's dime, and also to let me see what his industry's about somewhat.

Then calculate your expenses related to visiting Shanghai and your expenses related to the task at hand (is there an admission fee to get into the trade show? is the trade show being held in some weird part of the city you'll need a taxi to get to? will you have to eat there or put yourself up nearby?), and ask for that.

Since you're already curious about this industry and would therefore be interested to go whether you were doing him a favor or not, you shouldn't ask him to pay you to attend the trade show itself.
posted by Sara C. at 7:54 AM on May 8, 2012


bearette, I'm taking the liberty to MeMail you a somewhat private question...please check.
posted by ditto75 at 10:27 AM on May 8, 2012


aeschenkarnos, totally agree about the drive and openness -- that's why I'm doing it, to learn about something new. Since I don't have any sort of career going now, I gotta keep options open.

saraindc, VERY good points. Perhaps best for me not to necessarily charge anything, just enough to survive. Otherwise he might expect too much!

Since you're already curious about this industry and would therefore be interested to go whether you were doing him a favor or not, you shouldn't ask him to pay you to attend the trade show itself.
I'm not exactly thrilled about his industry, just willing to learn about it (since as I've said before I'm industry-less). I wouldn't exactly go there without having this responsibility, so I still think he should pay at minimum for me to get there, do this thing and stay alive.
posted by ditto75 at 10:35 AM on May 8, 2012


If you don't already work for him, you may have to get a 1099 or something to report the income, as he'll be paying you as a business expense.

I am not a tax attorney, but won't you then have to pay taxes on this income? This should dramatically influence your hourly/daily rate. I would absolutely do research on this first.
posted by desjardins at 11:30 AM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


My mental rule of thumb on the old 1099 is 30-35% for taxes.
posted by rhizome at 4:13 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Based on my own personal experience with similar situations, I suggest you either do it for free as a favor to a friend or charge a "professional" rate (probably US$500-800/day). If you charge anything at all, you're committing to providing professional results, and charging too little for something that turns out to be more work than you planned on can cause resentment ... again, speaking from personal experience.

I've lived in Shanghai for many years, and can confirm that you'll be fine with your tourist visa. You won't be "caught" because you're not breaking any laws, plus no one at the show will look at your passport. The idea that you could be fined or deported for visiting a trade show on a tourist visa is ridiculous.

I suggest you have your friend print up some business cards for you -- you generally need them to sign in to the show, exchange for brochures, etc. Before you go, find out if there's an entrance fee or if you need to register in advance to attend. Note that even if it's free, there will likely be scalpers outside the exhibition center trying to sell badges to suckers. Also, the Shanghai New International Expo Centre is way out in the middle of nowhere, so if you want to do any sightseeing in Shanghai, don't book a hotel near there ... or anywhere in Pudong for that matter.
posted by twisted mister at 9:15 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


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